The Four Classical Elements

The Four Classical Elements

The four classical elements are Air, Fire, Water and Earth

These are a foundational part of the Western worldview and are found in every aspect of Western esotericism including KabbalahAstrology, Alchemy, Medicine, and the Tarot.

The principle is that our world is composed of four immutable elements, each with completely different properties, and although may be combined in various ways, can never be fundamentally changed.

Over time the basic elements that compose our world has expanded to include over a hundred elements, each more complex than the last, shown in the modern periodic table.

Yet the Four Elements are not just a simplistic version of our modern periodic table,  they have profound physical, vital, psychological and spiritual significance.

The Four Elements compose our physical and energetic bodies. Ancient medicine in the European tradition was based on the four elements, called humors in the human body, and their imbalance being the cause of illness.

Spirits of the Four Elements

The Four Elements each have their own spirit or elemental, which we can work with consciously to ask for and receive help along our path. The sylphs which are semi-invisible creatures that live in the air. Salamanders that appear similar to regular salamanders but live happily in the fire element. Undines and nereids of the water, the famous mermaids of legend. And gnomes and pygmies that live within all parts of the earth.

Psychological Tests of the Four Elements

The Four Elements are psychological, each with their own natural affinities, strengths, and blockages; they are what we conquer within ourselves psychologically as we traverse the initiatic path, so that our internal nature is in balance and harmony.

In the solitude of these mysterious sanctuaries, the neophytes were submitted to the four Initiatic ordeals. The ordeals of fire, air, water and earth always defined the diverse purifications of the neophytes. The neophytes are submitted to the four Initiatic ordeals which are verified in the Internal Worlds. The human being still is not a king or queen of nature, but the human being is called to be a king in accordance to Melchizedeck. 

Disciples must be tested by the four elements in order to examine them. They are submitted to ordeals in the forty-nine regions of thought. These ordeals are for everyone, man and woman. One can help oneself by having pure thoughts, but this is not enough; meditation is necessary.”
– Samael Aun Weor, The Initiatic Path in the Arcana of Tarot and Kabbalah

“The four ordeals within the White Lodge are in order to examine the disciple’s morals. For instance, in the ordeal of fire, the disciple is attacked by crowds of enemies who insult him. Instead of returning insults, the disciple throws love towards his enemies. This is how he triumphs in this ordeal, when with serenity, he passes through the fire without becoming burned.

The ordeal of water for the Gnostic in the White Lodge is given with the sole purpose of knowing what level the disciple’s altruism and philanthropy has reached.
The White Lodge’s ordeal of air is given with the sole purpose of knowing the disciple’s capacity for resistance against great adversities, and for detachment from material things.

Whosoever succumbs to the grave inconveniences of life fails in the ordeal of earth. There are many persons who have passed these ordeals within the very struggle of life, within the daily battle of obtaining their daily bread”
– Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of Beelzebub

Working with the Four Elements in the path of Initiation means that we approach life as a process for purifying, sublimating and elevating our interior psychological elements. Each element can be a lifetime of study, reflection and experience to understand at its depths, and in doing we learn about ourselves and our path.



Air is clear, it is related with the mind, with idealism, observation and communication. It is oriented toward equality in all types of relationships, and egalitarianism in general.

In the test of air we lose all that we hold dear, and are tested on our attachments to people, situations, status, even to concepts, ideas and fantasies. The ability to have non-attachment will purify our Air element.


Fire is warming, radiating, giving light and heat and also consuming and difficult to control. It is oriented toward leadership because the radiating qualities naturally gather others around it. Fire can flare up, it can burn, it can cleanse and purify and it can destroy.

A test of fire is always related to anger, lust, ambition, pride. We must maintain serenity and humility to purify our Fire element.


Water is cooling, cleansing, healing. Water is responsive to the environment, it humbly goes to the lowest ground and settles into perfect tranquility, it also collects all the debris and garbage and can become stagnant. Water can be a patient trickle of water that eventually carves out a canyon, it can be a powerful glacier, or a life-giving spring or river.

Tests of water relate to our ability to adapt to situations, to be rich, poor, exalted or humble without preferring to just give up. Being adaptable and able to change with circumstances purifies our element of Water.


Earth is stable, solid, related with structure and values, both material and otherwise. Earth gives us homes, food, clothing, it provides the basic substance of existence in this world.

Tests of Earth feel that we are trapped in between two terrible mountains, some difficult decision where there seems no good solution. To find the wisdom in dealing with adversity purifies our element of Earth.